I get messages once in a while from soon-to-be self-published authors soliciting advice about writing and publishing. I recently answered a question of one of these folks and thought I’d share my answer with anyone reading my blog. I should be writing a book right now, but I often indulge in other activities to avoid my work so that I can make my life more stressful and therefore interesting.
The issue this person wrote me about centered around feedback from early readers. When you write a book, you get people to read it first before you release it to the general public and make it for sale. Usually first-time writers look to friends and family for that service. I’m here to tell you why that’s a mistake. I’m also here to tell you how to avoid what I think is one of the most common mistakes first-time writers make. There’s actually a list of those most-common mistakes, and I’m going to do some other blog posts on each one in turn.
Or said in myth fashion: WRITING SLOW EQUALS WRITING WELL.
Or the flip side: WRITING FAST EQUALS WRITING POORLY.
This comes out of everyone’s mouth at one point or another in a form of apology for our work. “Oh, I just cranked that off.”
Or the flip side… “This is some of my best work. I’ve been writing it for over a year.”
Now this silly idea that the writing process has anything at all to do with quality of the work has been around in publishing for just over 100 years now, pushed mostly by the literature side and the college professors.
It has no basis in any real fact when it comes to writers. None. If you don’t believe me, start researching how fast some of the classics of literature were written.
But don’t ask major professional writers out in public. Remember we know this myth and lie about how really hard we do work. (Yup, that’s right, someone who makes stuff up for a living will lie to you. Go figure.) So you have to get a long-term professional writer in a private setting. Then maybe with a few drinks under his belt the pro will tell you the truth about any project.
In my Writing in Public posts this year, I am doing my best to knock some of this myth down and just show what a normal day in a life can produce, even with me doing a bunch of other things at the same time.
NO WRITER IS THE SAME. NO PROJECT IS THE SAME.
And put simply:
THE QUALITY OF THE FINAL PRODUCT HAS NO RELATIONSHIP TO THE SPEED, METHOD, OR FEELING OF THE WRITER WHILE WRITING.
I hit a nasty rough patch in 2006-2007. I experienced paralyzing fear when I faced the blank white page. Every idea I had was a wretched cliché. Every sentence was stilted and stupid. I could barely skim Joe’s or Elizabeth Bear’s blog posts on writing because I felt like such a fraud. I called myself a writer, but I wasn’t writing. I felt like I’d used up all my good ideas and I’d never turn out anything good again. I would never be as good as China Mieville or Jeanette Winterson. They NEVER had ideas this bad! I incorrectly attributed this to writers’ block, to a creative failing on my part. You see, the mind is an evaluation and judgment machine. Those skills are great for predicting danger so a species can survive. No amount of positive thinking will replace a sabertooth tiger with a kitten, right? But today, when our mind is attempting to predict and prevent circumstances that cause us embarrassment or pain, we end up in a vicious mental feedback loop. We end up with a long list of situations to avoid, like Going to Parties, Asking People on Dates, or Self-Publishing a Book. For several years, it wasn’t safe for me to say anything. The abusive person in my life would twist my statements around and throw them back in my face. If something was in writing, this person could pick the statements apart and attribute all kinds of horrible, manipulative motives to me. Of course a blank page was terrifying! Part of how I dealt with it -- my starting point in cognitive defusion -- is here, with my yoga teacher telling me “it doesn’t have to be anything.” I stopped trying to suppress my inner critic. I agreed with him. “That’s okay. This page can be absolute shit. If Neil Gaiman and Elizabeth Bear talk about writing the Awful First Draft, then I don’t have to turn out a perfect first draft. Mine can be awful too.” That enabled me to detach from perfectionism, which was my mind’s attempt to protect me from embarrassment and hurt. Instead of suppressing the thoughts, I just allowed them to exist in a more workable way.
Way back, over three years ago now, I did a post in my Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing series called “Myth: You Can’t Make Money Writing Fiction.” And then I wrote the basis of this post about one year ago right now. And things have changed so much, I wanted to update this now, and then I will follow this with another short fiction post on a slightly different area of short fiction.
But in this post, I want to go after a saying that used to be almost 100% true before four years ago. “You can’t make a living writing only short fiction.”
Michael Moorcock is a highly influential English writer. His career has mostly specialised in fantasy and sci-fi, and whilst some of his novels have been highly literary, he was a firm exponent of sword-and-sorcery, particularly in the sixties and seventies.
He has often commented on the craft of writing, but one of his most unique and interesting techniques is his plan for writing a book in three days. He was talking about sword-and-sorcery at the time, the fantasy inheritor of pulp fiction, and the books in question were typically 60,000 words, but even so, there’s a lot to be said for his methods. Despite the general medium, the power of his work has been huge, and his best-known character, Elric, is one of fantasy’s great standouts.
One critical element to the ongoing steady sales of your books is the pairings Amazon makes between your title and other books in the online store.
Whether you are just interested in what books are bought alongside with yours, or if you are trying to evaluate whether or not your own books are paired well with your other titles, Yasiv.Com is a nifty tool for reviewing your also-bought chain, if you know how to use it.
I've seen a lot of new people floating around on KB asking for promo tips, so I thought I would give a quick guide to doing "the slow build" of sales. After getting into publishing almost sixteen months ago, I'm a full-time writer and making $2-5k a month (occasionally more). Since I'm not particularly smart or talented, I'm pretty confident anyone can pull it off doing the same stuff I have.
I don't really like being helpful. (That really sounds horrible. I guess it is.) I am not a people person, I don't want to build a platform as a publishing "expert" or what have you, and my depression/anxiety severely limits my ability to promote anything. But I wouldn't be doing as well as I am now if smart, kindly folks hadn't taken time out of their busy schedules to give me a few pointers. It's been a huge hand up for me, and so here's a hand up for you.
None of this is rocket science. You can gather this info just by reading a lot of threads and watching other writers. I'm just going to distill it into a few points.
Disclaimer: This is only one way to do things. It's pretty much dummy-proof and luck-proof. But there are lots of other ways to do things too--probably better ways. This is the easiest that requires the least interaction with people. YMMV.
On June 26, 2013, I received email from a reader that included words no author ever wants to hear: "possible plagiarism." I've received many messages like this, however - most because another author or publishing house or hair coloring company used a cover photo similar to (or the same as) Easy's cover photo, and others because someone wrote a story eerily similar to Easy. Most of these do not constitute plagiarism. Some of these may in fact be plagiarism... but plagiarism is an ethical sin. Copyright infringement, on the other hand, is a legal offense.
I did not write this, but rather stole borrowed it off the NaNo forums a few years ago. It is a compilation of people’s ideas of the various types of people that participate in NaNoWriMo. Too funny! It makes me laugh every year. Sadly, I resembled a few of them in past years. Maybe this year will be better? haha
This is the first in a sporadic series of posts examining the publishing market, specifically as it relates to self-publishing. To start things off, I want to look at pricing, and present an ass-backwards case: that it may make more sense to price your oldest, least popular books the highest—and your new books the lowest.
Wham Line: a Wham Line is a line of dialogue that radically alters a scene. A scene is headed in one direction, then the line is uttered. Afterwards, the scene is going somewhere very, very different. For it to be effective the audience must not see it coming — not just not knowing the exact information, but not expecting any kind of surprising, or even significant, line there at all.
Because of this blog, I get a lot of e-mails from writers at various stages of their careers. I also receive a lot of links to other blogs, written by publishing industry people here and out of the United States. I have noticed, over time, several patterns in the way that people respond to the New World of Publishing.
I’ve recently made a couple of tutorial in GIMP and Photoshop to show you how to add your images to a boxed set template to make a 3D ebook cover for your bundles or boxed sets. Here are the templates for a 3-book boxed set, a 4-book boxed set, and a 5-book boxed set.
It’s a foregone conclusion that it’s a good thing for an author to have an established fan base, but I’ll share some numbers from my last release for those who like concrete examples.
A couple of weeks ago, around May 17th, I released the sixth book in my Emperor’s Edge series. I priced it at $4.95, my usual price for a 100,000+ word e-novel, and I didn’t pay for any big advertising campaigns. I didn’t do guest blog posts, interviews, or spend a lot of extra time on social media sites, bugging people to buy the book. What I did do was spend a few minutes composing an email for my newsletter subscribers (people who have signed up to my mailing list because they enjoyed my other books). I also announced it via a blog post, and added a couple of notices on my own Facebook and Twitter pages. Total time invested on book promotion? Let’s say 30-45 minutes.
That weekend, I sold over a thousand copies of the novel, with its Amazon sales ranking reaching as high as 220. At this point, May 29th, the ebook has sold about 3000 copies. I’ll let you guys do the math on earnings, but you take home around $3.40 per ebook on a $4.95 ebook.
(Alas, my new releases don’t continue to sell that many copies after the first month, but I certainly have nothing to complain about here, especially given that my other titles continue to chug along with sales every day too.)
All in all, not bad for 30-45 minutes of promotion.
HOW TO NOT USE GOODREADS LIKE AN IDIOT (or: How to Grow a Fanbase from Pre-Selected Readers Using the Best Social Network of Dedicated Readers Ever Devised by the Hand of Man.)
Okay. A lot of people have asked me to share my thoughts on using Goodreads the right way (which will also lead to some discussion of using it the wrong way, naturally.) So here’s everything I know. Hopefully it’s useful. First, keep in mind that if one thing is universal to all indie authors, it’s that nothing is universal. What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. There are too many factors that go into readers’ choices for anybody ever to quantify into information that is useful to all writers. So there is, of course, no guarantee that this will work for you, any more than free days or blogging or whatever.
Sharing your scoops to your social media accounts is a must to distribute your curated content. Not only will it drive traffic and leads through your content, but it will help show your expertise with your followers.
How to integrate my topics' content to my website?
Integrating your curated content to your website or blog will allow you to increase your website visitors’ engagement, boost SEO and acquire new visitors. By redirecting your social media traffic to your website, Scoop.it will also help you generate more qualified traffic and leads from your curation work.
Distributing your curated content through a newsletter is a great way to nurture and engage your email subscribers will developing your traffic and visibility.
Creating engaging newsletters with your curated content is really easy.